Working with a ghostwriter is ultimately a business relationship. No matter how friendly the exchanges, the outcome is that you are paying someone to tell your story. Make sure the process culminates in the book you want.
In working with a ghostwriter as in all business relationships, it is always easiest to take care of business matters at the start of the process. Here are three guidelines to keep in mind when establishing how you and your ghostwriter will collaborate.
1. Is the ghostwriter working for hire or does s/he have a stake in the product?
A for-hire writer is paid by the hour or by the project and has no legal authorship rights. A writer who is working with a stake in the project does have legal rights as do the inheritors of that writer on his/her death. While sharing the rights is a way of reducing the up-front expense, it does mean that if you are successful at marketing the book you will have to share in the profits. This is more of an issue if you are famous or are writing about your relationship with someone famous. Obviously, fame will assist in marketing. Conversely, most ghostwriters will be reluctant to work for a stake if you are not famous.
At The Memoir Network, we ask for no legal rights to the manuscript. Our ghosts write on a for-hire basis. You hold all rights.
2. How will the authorship of the book be attributed on the jacket?
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This is important if you are using the book to establish your credibility as an expert and thus promoting your career. Listing a co-author on the book’s cover may lessen your perceived expertise. Most ghostwriters insist on a minimal acknowledgment within the book. If the name of the ghost does not appear on the cover, the writer uses this mention to prove to other clients that s/he was the co-author. The mention may read like this: “I want to thank XYZ for all his invaluable assistance in writing this book.” Work this out with the writer early. It will make him/her feel more comfortable.
At The Memoir Network, we will defer to your wish. We do not insist on having the co-author’s name on the book cover—although we do sometimes ask. We do request an acknowledgment within the book. We believe working with a ghostwriter ought to be easy.
3. Will the writer return to you all the digital documentation of the book?
With files of the text and artwork, you will be able to go into reprint without contacting the author (if you do not share the rights). It’s entirely possible that in a year or two you will have lost contact with the writer and not be able to locate the files. Be sure you have them in hand. Some writers may insist on keeping the files. This is not to your advantage.
At The Memoir Network, we always turn over to you all the digital files we have produced. This allows you maximum freedom of choice once our time working together is over.
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